The Hunt After DPRK Citizens: Overview of the Situation of North Korean Refugees in Russia

The Civic Assistance Committee presents the report “One Recognized Refugee in Nine Years. Overview of the situation with refugees from the DPRK (North Korea) in Russia”.

This report was compiled two months ago. However, we did not publish it in order to not draw attention to its characters and potentially cause problems. We did not want to break a silence period—the absence of intense situations involving refugees from North Korea. But now, in the Far East, a new wave of hunting for North Korean citizens has begun. This prompts us to immediately publish the report and draw attention to the stories of two new victims of that infamous policy towards asylum seekers from a country known for its brutal totalitarian regime.

Lawyer Lyubov Tatarets, a member of the Migration and Law network of the Human Rights Center Memorial in Blagoveshchensk, assesses the current situation: “Never before have the DPRK special services openly chased their citizens who are seeking asylum in Russia.”

The Hunt After DPRK Citizens: Overview of the Situation of North Korean Refugees in Russia


On August 27, a citizen of the DPRK Jong Su (name has been changed) contacted the lawyer of the Migration and Law network Tatiana Tyutyunik. He told her that he had fled the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island, where he was a sophomore. He ran away, because North Korean students are not allowed to leave the campus, use the telephone, or make any “dangerous contacts” in order to prevent them from getting any ideas about the possibility of not returning to their homeland.

On September 8, lawyer Tatyana Tyutyunik and Jong arrived at the Vladivostok City Immigration Center to submit an application for identification in order to apply for asylum. When Jong was in the office with an immigration officer, a Korean individual approached Tyutyunik in the hallway. He told her he was Jong’s friend and wanted to talk to him. Jong saw this “friend” and realized that he was sent by the authorities in an attempt to kidnap him.

Seizing the moment, when he was left alone in a room at the immigration center, Jong quickly climbed out of the window, pushed his way through the window bars, and ran away. When Tatiana Tyutyunik left the building, she saw five Koreans who were searching for Jong in a nearby park.

Today, on September 10, Tyutyunik and Jong arrived at the Immigration Center to receive the certificate of identification. From there, Jong drove to the city of Artem, where he settled for a while. Individuals dressed as civilians stopped near his house. According to the driver, they were Russian citizens. They took Jong to the Frunzenskiy Police Department in Vladivostok. At the police department, Jong’s lawyer was told that they were not holding any North Korean citizens. Tatyana Tyutyunik filed a missing person’s report.

Later, Jong sent a text message to the driver telling him that he was at the Artyom City Police Department. Subsequently, a duty officer of the Frunzensky District Police Department suggested that the Korean had allegedly been given to the DPRK Consulate.

The lawyer arrived in Artem by nightfall. The police station was closed. Nevertheless, the officer on duty told her that Jong indeed was brought to them and that FSS and the DPRK Consulate vehicles gathered around the department, which could be easily identified by the red diplomatic numbers. Lawyer Tyutyunnik could not learn anything definite about the fate of her client. Telling this story, she nervously repeated: “He is so young and skinny, he was so scared that even in the car he sat close to me all the time.”


In July, a citizen of the DPRK, Tsoy Li (name has been changed), contacted a lawyer of the Migration and Law network—Lyubov Tatarets. He worked as a doctor at the Tsi clinic in Blagoveshchensk. The persecution of the Korean began after Tsoy called his friend located in the Republic of Korea at the request of his brother.

Consequently, Tsoy was visited by law enforcement officers, and he was summoned for a conversation.

On July 15th, in the social media group “ News of Blagoveshchensk”, Lyubov Tatarets saw a message that her client had disappeared and was on the missing persons list. Together with the Korean, they came to the search department to give explanations. After that, unknown Korean individuals started calling Tatarets with a request to transfer Tsoi to them and even came to Tatarets’ home twice.

The procedure of identification for Tsoy was scheduled for July 22, but he did not come to the appointment. It turned out that at 12 o’clock in the morning, police officers arrived at the house where he was hiding. Looking out the window, Tsoy saw his compatriots.

He ran away through gardens into the forest, went out on a highway, and caught a taxi. After that, Tatarets was summoned by the police several times to explain where the Korean is and who helped him escape.
Recently, Lyubov Tatarets found out that Tsoy left for Khabarovsk where he was captured by the DPRK special services, but he managed to get away. Where the Korean is now is unknown. Lawyer Tatarets is on her way to Khabarovsk.

Report “One Recognized Refugee in Nine Years. Overview of the situation with refugees from the DPRK (North Korea) in Russia”

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